Did you know? You can share this story using the social media icons on the upper left. Use the hashtag #WeAreCisco. You can also rate or comment on the story below.

Celebrating 20 Years of Sobriety




Editor’s note: The following story includes alcoholism and addiction, which might be upsetting to some readers. For mental health resources and support, visit the #SafeToTalk online community. Or contact the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), which offers short-term counseling, including emotional and mental health problems, marital and family problems, financial problems, dependent care concerns, and other personal problems. EAP is also qualified to assess and refer employees with alcohol and addiction issues.

Cathryn smiles and poses for the camera.
I recently celebrated 20 years of sobriety.

Alcoholism and addiction are difficult, complex, and deeply personal to me.

I have to admit, I was hesitant and a little nervous to share my story. But then I thought to myself, if my story helps one person, it was worth it.

I recently celebrated 20 years of sobriety on September 11, 2022. This milestone would not have been possible without the support of Cisco, family, friends, and support groups.

The guilt, shame, and remorse were constant during my years of drinking.

Canceling commitments to family members, missing work, and lying to friends and family. After a night out, I swore that I would quit drinking, but time and time again, I would let myself down.

I’m so grateful I reached out for help and decided to change.

Approximately 9 percent of the workforce — that’s one 1 in every 11 workers in the U.S. — has struggled with substance or alcohol use disorder in the past 12 months.

So my journey is not all that unique.

I grew up in Northern California in a middle-class family. I got good grades, I was on the cheerleading team, and I was always involved in sports.

Being an alcoholic was not part of the blueprint for the life I had imagined.

Every disease has its symptoms, and, in my opinion, alcoholism’s dominant symptom is denial.

“I don’t drink that much. They drink more than I do. I can quit anytime.” Countless times over the years, I made a promise to myself and my family to quit drinking. And countless times, I let myself down and started drinking again.

Although I may not have had a drink for a couple of days or weeks, my thoughts were always on alcohol. It was a vicious cycle.

What I discovered on my recovery journey is that alcoholism is a mental, physical, and spiritual disease. Even though you may not have taken a drink, the mental obsession is still there.

It was after a particularly heavy weekend of drinking that I made another promise to my family that I would quit.

But this time, it was different. I asked for help!

At the time, it was the hardest thing I ever had to do — and with the help of Cisco, my journey began.

Cathryn takes a selfie in a forest with her daughter and three dogs.
With my daughter Katie and our dogs Bodhi, PP Queen, and Honey.

I spoke to my manager, who worked with human resources on a 30-day leave of absence, which was completely confidential.

I knew I would not be able to recover alone. I needed help to detox not only my body but my mind and spirit as well.

On Wednesday, September 11, 2002, I went to The Camp Recovery Center in Scotts Valley. I stayed for three weeks, followed by one week at home before returning to work.

Following treatment, I did what was suggested. I reached out to other women, attended meetings, and I didn’t drink.

I always thought it was a weakness to ask for help — there was nothing I couldn’t do on my own.

I was wrong.

Thankfully, I reached out to a few people I knew in recovery. Who knew there was so much freedom in surrendering and letting go?

I let go of the thoughts that I had to do this on my own and the shame and guilt that had haunted me for years.

Make no mistake, this was not easy.

I struggled. I had some really bad days, but I also had some good days. There were many days I felt like giving up and having a drink, but I remembered that promise I made to myself when I started on this journey.

No matter how hopeless or defeated I felt, I would sleep on it and reassess how I felt the next morning. I have been taking it one day at a time for over 20 years, and what a beautiful gift!

Cathryn holds her grandson Charlie and kisses him on the cheek.
My grandson Charlie who I absolutely adore.

I still do not do this on my own. I attend 12-step meetings several times a week, volunteer answering recovery hotlines, secretary meetings, and share when I am asked.

I’ve also worked with at-risk young women and nonprofits by bringing meetings to their facilities to share my experience, strength, and hope.

I tell you these things not to boast or to pat myself on the back for doing a good deed.

I share my story because it is all part of my recovery. It is what keeps me sober. It’s important to give back what was so freely given to me.

During our Illuminate series, Oprah Winfrey spoke about intentions and our purpose in life is to be of service to a greater good. I agree!

My life today may not be perfect, but it is wonderful.

I have amazing family, friends, and a beautiful daughter and grandson. My life is full, and none of these relationships would have blossomed into what they are today if I had not made that conscious decision to get sober.

I will always be grateful that I have been given this opportunity.

Remember, you never have to do this alone.

Related Links

Connect everything. Innovate everywhere. Benefit everyone.

Share your thoughts on the story here!

View More Comments